Even more fat for our taste buds

A new and expensive burger

I picked up my copy of The Wall Street Journal this morning, opened it to "Personal Journal," the section I usually read first, and gasped. The lead article was titled  "Bring On the Fat, Bring On the Taste."

That certainly caught my attention... negatively. Then I started reading the rest of the article and got even more upset. The subtitle was "Celebrity Chefs Join Burger Wars, Baste Beef Patties in Butter." The text went on to describe how some of the top chefs in America are now getting into the burger business. Some say they are using only the best kinds of beef and specialty ingredients, but a number of food specialists, among them university professors, say what they're chef really doing is serving high-fat burgers.

Another new burger

They're also charging much more than the fast food restaurants. One of the burgers, made from Japanese Kobe beef and served with foie gras and truffles, costs $39. And that's not the most expensive pattie. Another has truffles, foie gras and Madeira sauce and goes for $60.

Why would anyone eat these cardiovascular time bombs? Well they presumably taste good and perhaps they are status symbols. But they also use beef that has up to 30% fat content, or is basted in butter or, in one iteration, has a double layer of beef with potato chips in between to increase the crunchiness.

As for the chefs, they've realized the high-profits creating the monster burgers can bring. Hubert Keller, a French-trained, high-levl chef, makes 9 to 12% margins from his haute cruisine restaurants. His marginal profit on his first burger unit is 37.5%, so he's opened his second and third and has four more in the planning stage.

So let's go back to why this might be a problem, to our bodies even more than to our wallets. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAC) hasn't been released  in its final form yet, but the expert panel's preliminary report, available online, wants us to cut our intake of staurated fats to less than 7% of our total calories.

That makes enormous sense; saturated fats are associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk and people who either have this problem or are at high risk for it need to minimize their intake of these lipids.

We're in the midst of an epidemic of obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes (T2D) and 50 million Americans are said to have the metabolic syndrome (a combination of abdominal fat, high blood pressure, insulin resistance (T2D), abnormal blood lipids and several other blood factors making one prone to CVD).

My opinion is the last thing we need is these expensive new high-fat burgers.

But I'd bet they sell well and make the chefs a bundle of money. When it comes to following the DGAC, we don't have a good track record.

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